Time - Is it an illusion? Certainly not
Itís the present time that can make or break Manipur

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh *

The Value of Time [Jeff Edwards]. "Time is money"

The phrase 'time is money' comes from Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding Fathers of the United States of America. He means that in order to earn money one must act straight away by using one's time as time is not infinite.

In Manipur, we had the opposite notion. "Pung pung, Meitei pung; matam chadana chatpa Pung" - an old Meitei aphorism that says: clock clock, Meitei clock; clock that has no sense time. Time was indeed an illusion for Meiteis. Hayeng touraga loire (will do it tomorrow). It is the same in Ireland. You can go to anybody's house at any time and there is no hurry in doing anything.

My father used to say: "Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today". So did Thomas Jefferson - American 3rd US President, the author of the Declaration of American Independence.

I sense a discussion of time, at this time, of political time, for all Manipuris' time, must be on time. Acting on time for political mobilisation and leadership can lead to effective outcome. Loss of Kabaw Valley is an example. Integration to India is another. Relegation to OBC is similar. Meiteis never act on time.

Meiteis must remember that we live in the present time, not the past nor the future time. Manipur once divided cannot be put together. It's futile to allow our mind to drift away to thoughts from the past. We must remember we live in the present time. We must make ourselves fully alive in the present moment of time.

"Time is what clocks measure". For scientists, it is not as simple as that. They have deep philosophical ideas. For most of us, the world is moving steadily forward through time, from an unknown past, believed to be the Big Bang through an active present and into an unknown future. We were born, we grow up and we die through time.

Time has been a major subject of study in religion, philosophy and science, but defining it in a manner applicable to all fields without circularity, with a proven conclusion, has defied scholars. Prof Lee Smolin - an American theoretical physicist, in his new book 'Time Reborn' gives a new radical view of the nature of time.

He argues the idea that time, which has been a religious and philosophical commonplace as illusion, has been holding back both physics, and our understanding of the universe. He explains how the true nature of time impacts on us, our world, and our universe.

Einstein once said, "Öfor us physicists believe - the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion although a convincing one". Einstein proved time is only relative, not absolute as Newton believed. He really showed that time on top a hill ticks faster than time at sea level. People living on top of a high rise flat gets older faster than those who live on the ground floor. However, for us the difference is too small to perceive directly.

The Greek philosopher Parmenides thought that 'change' is an illusion, and said the universe simply exists as unchanged lump.

Mathematically, time is the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues. Scientifically, time is a non-spatial continuum (an expanse outside space) that is measured. Space refers to a great three-dimensional expanse in which all material objects are located and all events occur.

I have written somewhere, in relation to Einstein's theory of relativity that, space has three dimensions - length, breadth and depth. And in the physical model, the space-time or 'space-time continuum' is usually interpreted with space being three dimensional and time as the fourth dimension.

That means the universe has four dimensions - three of space and one of time. The word 'universe' is often taken to mean everything that exists at the present time. Mainstream physic, basically eliminates time as an illusion - a fundamental aspect of nature.

I also wrote about Lee Smolin's book 'The Life of the Cosmos'. In it he theorises that, like Darwin's idea of "reproduction" and "mutation", the collapsing 'black hole' causes the emergence of a new universe on the other side, whose fundamental constant parameters (masses of elementary particles) may differ slightly (mutation) from those of the universe where the black hole collapsed.

Smolin argues how physicists eliminate time with the so called 'block universe' (four-dimensional) picture, which is derived from Einstein's general relativity theory. His view is that time is a fundamental reality of the universe, and that without it, too many of the big questions of physics are left unanswerable.

But, Dr Julian Barbour, a British physicist and author of The End of Time, views that time, as we perceive it, does not exist as anything other than an illusion. He quotes: St Augustine who said: "What then is time?" and concluded that there could not have been time before the world, because there would have been no change, and without change, time is meaningless.

Augustine or Saint Augustine of Hippo was a Roman African, early Christian theologian and philosopher. He suggested that, 'time is present in, and measured by the mind. The past and future are in the mind. In our consciousness the past and the future have a being of sorts. The past and future have a sort of being in so far as the past is remembered and the future is anticipated'.

A thousand years after Augustine, Isaac Newton disagreed. He held the view that time is absolute, marching on regardless of the stuff of the universe. It was called Newtonian time.

 A broken egg. It can't go back in time to be a whole egg again. It's called Entropy in physics.
A broken egg. It can't go back in time to be a whole egg again.
It's called Entropy in physics.

Einstein, much later, showed that there is no such thing. According to him, 'time and space are part of an interwoven fabric, and the presence of matter changes both, stretching the fabric like a weight on a sheet'. He makes time something as real as space.

As lay people, we get the impression that we are always moving though time. If you drink tea from a cup, it disappears. If you drop an egg on the floor it breaks and it cannot be put back together again. This is called 'entropy' in thermodynamics in physics. Which means the degree of disorder always increases with time. It is for Meiteis, Khongjais, Meitei Pangals and Kabuis in Imphal, to prevent the breakage of the egg.

Smolin explains: the property called 'entropy' - the second law of thermodynamics, which deals with a transfer of heat energy within a system. Hot tea will get cold; ice will melt to water, until everything is in the same temperature.

Further, he said: 'any system in disequilibrium should come quickly to equilibrium. But our universe, even though it is more than 13 billion years old, is very far from equilibrium. This is due to particular laws of physics - such as the strength of gravity and the very special way that the universe began'.

He agrees that we still do not know why these laws are as they are, or why the universe should have started in its particular way. He also points out that, for modern physics in which time is treated as an illusion, the question is unanswerable. "The initial conditions and laws, in the block universe model, are just part of the universe. His idea of "real time" includes hypotheses that make testable predictions.

Barbour who supports the time-is-an-illusion school of thought does not agree with Smolin. He believes that, if Smolin is right, it will have implications far beyond academic physics. A lot of our thinking from the nature of being human to economical and political problems is poisoned by the belief that the future is already determined and that we can find truly novel solutions.

I believe only time itself, will tell what is the nature of time, when the time comes. Until then, Meiteis and like-minded Manipuris must live and act in the present time as we know.

* Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at irengbammsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com and Website:
This article was posted on Septemner 14, 2019 .

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